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15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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My worst night of the Manchester blitzicon for Recommended story

by kathleenshell

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Old Trafford, Manchester
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22 February 2004

On December 23rd and 24th 1940 Manchester suffered its worst blitz, the city centre was almost blasted out of existence. 30.000 incendiary bombs dropped on the city in two nights, causing the largest fire in any city during the war. The sirens sounded at dusk on 23rd. My Dad was in hospital in the Manchester Royal Infirmary; my mother and younger sister had been evacuated to Northumberland; I had brought my grandparents to our house to care for them. As I was a volunteer nurse in the St John Ambulance I ran to the First Aid post through Seymour Park, incendiaries falling all around me. The noise of exploding bombs, chains of shells from our guns exploding in the sky, the terrifying screams of bombs falling made my dash to a shelter a journey of complete horror. Manchester was a raging inferno, encircled by a wall of fire, the sky for miles illuminated. 14 nurses were killed in one hospital and patients who could walk at all were advised to try and find their way home. There was no let up from the bombardment, I dodged from one shelter to another in the park and eventually arrived at Seymour Park School, Eyres Road, which was the local First Aid Post.
Several doctors were already there as well as some qualified nurses. The stretcher bearers were already bringing in the wounded and those suffering from shock. My eyes darted everywhere looking for my family. What a terrible night! The bombs seemed to be screaming directly at the school, the ground shook, the walls shuddered, the lights all went out, I was very frightened and thought my life would end every minute. Fortunately I was with a doctor who had worked in the trenches during WW1 (he must have been just a young man then). He was so calm; whilst I was trembling from head to foot his hands as he threaded a needle to stitch a wound were completely steady and sure. He impressed me tremendously then and, later, when I saw a small embroidered motto in his surgery with the words "I can, I must" I knew I would never forget him.

The long night eventually came to a close. We had been working hard and non stop without a break. One or two had been unable to face up to it and were found crouching under tables or curled up in a corner. Who could blame them? For about 12 hours we had lived through hell. And miraculously I had survived.

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